Virgil Essay

This essay has a total of 1509 words and 6 pages.


The Aeneid, by Virgil, is an epic that attempts to give the Roman Empire an illustrious
founding. As the story progresses, Virgil presents two very real human emotions: pietas,
and impious furor. Pietas is duty towards the Gods, country, and family. Impious furor, in
contrast, is the feeling of fury and passion. These two emotions are consistently at odds
with each other. Many characters within the epic, such as Juno, are consumed by their own
fury, a trait which Virgil sheds negative light on. Aeneas, the hero and central
character, on the other hand, is a man who is presented as pious and dutiful. He obeys the
Gods and journeys to Rome. However, at the end of the novel, Aeneas himself is overtaken
by rage, and he kills out of vengeance. Virgil’s goal in writing the Aeneid is to
present Aeneas as a pious individual, and thus giving Rome a glorious founding. By closing
the novel with an act of rage, however, Virgil portrays Aeneas as a ruthless killer. The
ending is inappropriate because it casts doubt on the very reason for which Virgil wrote
the Aeneid. Aeneas is presented as someone who is the model of pietas. A Roman must show
piety towards his family, his country, and above all, piety to the Gods. When Aeneas
visits Carthage, he falls in love with Queen Dido, and plans to remain there for an
indefinite amount of time. However, he is quickly reminded of the more important task at
hand. Are you forgetful Of what is your own kingdom, your own fate? remember Ascanius
growing up, the hopes you hold For Iulus, your own heir, to whom are owed The realm of
Italy and land of Rome. (Aeneid, 4:353-369) Mercury, the messenger god, is scolding Aeneas
for remaining in Carthage. Mercury reminds him that he must remember his
“fate,” and that he should leave for Italy immediately. He also reminds Aeneas
of his son Ascanius, and that he should leave for Latium so that his son can eventually
rule over the “realm of Italy.” Aeneas now must make a decision, does he stay
with Dido, the woman he loves, or does he continue his journey to found Rome? Even though
Aeneas “longs to soften, soothe [Dido’s] sorrow” (Aeneid, 4:540) because
he cares for her, “pious Aeneas carries out the gods’/instructions”
(Aeneid, 4:544-545). Pietas is love for Gods and putting aside your own heart to comply
with the will of Gods. Therefore, Aeneas gives up Dido and instead chooses Rome and its
glorious future. He is being dutiful by following the words of Mercury, who in turn
represents Jove, God of Olympus. Virgil clearly intends this to be seen as a commendable
trait. In addition, Aeneas is explicitly referred to as “pious” within the
text. This description of Aeneas is appropriate, because by choosing the Gods over Dido,
he has now become worthy of the term piety. Virgil is attempting to make a distinction
between Aeneas and the other characters of the Aeneid. While other’s may indulge
their anger, Aeneas has control over his emotions. One different point of view that can be
presented against Aeneas’s piety is his killing in the war against the Latins.
Aeneas kills many of Turnus’ men in the course of the battle. However, Aeneas, in
his battle with Lausus, feels compassion for the man he has beaten. “Poor boy, for
such an act what can the pious/ Aeneas give to match so bright a nature?/ Keep as your own
the arms that made you glad;/ and to the shades and ashes of your parents I give you
back-” (Aeneid, 10:1132-1136). Aeneas has mortally wounded the man, but he still
shows compassion towards him. Instead of taking Lausus’s weapons, Aeneas allows him
to keep them, and he gives the man his blessing. For this reason, Aeneas displays piety,
even when he takes the life of a man. In contrast to pious Aeneas, Juno, Goddess of
marriage, is someone who is overtaken by her own anger. She does not want the Trojans to
reach the site of Rome, and her dislike of them is recounted early in the epic. And
Saturn’s daughter- remembering the old war… the causes of her bitterness, her
sharp and savage hurt,… for deep within her mind lie stored the judgment of Paris
and the wrong done to her scorned beauty, the breed she hated. (Aeneid, 1:35-43) This
description illustrates to what extent Juno loathes the Trojans. Juno is extremely upset
because Paris denied her the golden apple. For this reason, she harbors
“bitterness” against the people, and she plans to make their journey to Italy
long and arduous. Virgil also uses strong words, such as “hate” and
“savage,” to describe Juno’s anger towards the Trojans. Her rage only
continues to grow, and Juno asks Aeolus, god of winds, to destroy the entire Trojan fleet
in one great storm. “You Aeolus-/…Hammer your winds to fury/ and ruin their
swamped ships, or scatter them/ and fling their crews piecemeal across the seas”
(Aeneid, 1:95-103). Juno’s anger is so great that she wants Aeneas and his men, the
only surviving Trojans, to be annihilated. She plans to destroy the entire Dardan race.
Despite her attempts, the Trojans survive the attack and continue their journey. Finally,
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